Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Alex Higgins: A 155 break impossible? Not for Higgy

Alex Higgins
ALEX HIGGINS Until the robotic Stephen Hendry turned up as a 21-year-old world snooker champion in 1990, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins had been the youngest ever winner of the title, when he beat John Spencer in the best-of-73-frames 1972 final. It was Higgins' first appearance at the tournament and his flamboyant style and break-neck speed around the table earned him the "Hurricane" sobriquet. It is a nickname that could just as easily have applied to his life away from the beize, although the notoriously sedate snooker arena also witnessed its fair share of storms. At the 1986 UK championships, Higgins was fined and disqualified for head-butting a referee. Four years later, after a first round defeat at The Crucible, Higgins punched a tournament official before going on to announce his retirement from the game.
Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins was well known for breaking the mould — and never more so than when he racked up what many believed to be an impossible score on the green baize.

Indeed, Higgins is said to be one of the few players in snooker history to have scored a break of 155 — rather remarkable as the ‘maximum' is generally considered to be 147.

But a 155 is possible, although it requires exceptional circumstances.

A foul stroke must be committed by an opponent, which leaves the non-offender snookered on all 15 reds.

By nominating a colour as an ‘extra red’, then taking a subsequent black — and then adding the ‘normal’ 15 reds, 15 blacks and colours, the player would then complete the rarest of snooker breaks.

A mistake from his opponent before a ball had been potted gave Higgins his chance, and one free ball, 15 reds and 16 blacks later he had made history.

Unfortunately for Higgins, this feat was not achieved in a regular competition and is therefore not officially recorded.

Indeed, the only ‘16-red’ break in competition was by Steve James — ironically in beating Higgins — at the 1990 World Championship. His clearance, though, totalled only 135.

Also, at the Crucible three decades ago, Higgins was well on his way to the first ever 147 recorded on television. He potted 15 reds, 15 blacks and the yellow — and then, inexplicably, missed a rather easy green.

“Who'd have thought the green would have let down an Irishman?” was his wry comment afterwards.

A couple of years later, his English rival Steve Davis would go on to achieve the hitherto elusive feat of a televised maximum.

In 1976 Higgins knocked in a 146 against Willie Thorne during a challenge match.

But he is best known for the 69 in the 1982 world semi-final against Jimmy White, pulling off what former World Champion John Spencer described as “the pressure break of the century”.

At 59-0 down and needing every ball (none of which were handily placed) to avoid going out of the competition, a twitchy, nervous Higgins somehow managed to clear the table, courtesy of a series of astonishing pots.

Although not one of his highest breaks, it’s regarded as the finest in his career.

A few days days later he clinched the world title against Ray Reardon — courtesy of a 135 total clearance.

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